Abe Sapien has always been an outsider, but working as a lead agent for the B.P.R.D. gave him the closest thing he’s had to a foster family in centuries. But now, BPRD’s top agent has left them behind and gone out on his own, looking for something or someone to tell him who he really is.In the recently launched series Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible, writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie take Hellboy’s aquatic confidante out on his own in the shadow of America, working his away along as a hitch-hiker, train-jumper and vagabond. With the world in ruin by catastrophes as seen in recent issues of B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien is heading down a dangerous path – one even more dangerous due to the fact that he looks more like the monsters who terrorize the world than those who are trying to save it.
With the second issue scheduled to come out May 1, 2013, Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible is part of a new chapter in the ongoing story of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy family of titles, and gives the long-time supporting star Abe Sapien a chance to shine on his own.
Newsarama: Mike, Scott, Abe's had his chance in the spotlight here and there, but this looks to be a real big upgrade for him – just as he leaves the BPRD force. Is doing an Abe solo series something you've been wanting to do for awhile?
Mike Mignola: There are a couple reasons for doing it. It’s nothing at all against John Arcudi; I was actually very sheepish when I first brought up the idea of taking Abe Sapien out of the B.P.R.D. series, but he was fine with it which was nice. I didn’t want to step on John’s toes, but I felt that Abe had run his course as a regular guy working for the B.P.R.D. It was a great thing for Abe, but his origins are so much more supernatural than that and his time with the B.P.R.D. just scratched the surface of what he is and what he’s meant to be.
Abe’s way of dealing with his origin is so different than Hellboy, so I thought we should give him a little more room to find himself. John’s great at a certain kind of thing, but Scott Allie and I are much more supernatural, ghost story kind of guys and I thought that was definitely a side of Abe we wanted to delve further into. I’m sure john would have been happy to write an Abe Sapien series himself if there were 48 hours in a day, but he just can’t do it all and Scott was anxious to do more writing so it seemed like a perfect fit.
Also, with what’s going on in the B.P.R.D. series as far as the world goes, it’s so huge that I thought having two books that takes place during these dark times would give readers a better picture of what’s going on in the world. We’ve got disasters going on in every corner of the globe; even with B.P.R.D. being monthly, readers still only see a tiny fraction of what’s going on. Having two books out there will give a better picture of how big the problem is.Nrama: Abe fled the BPRD without asking permission – so who in the squad is tasked with finding him?
Mignola: I don’t want to say too much, but the B.P.R.D is definitely interested in keeping tabs on Abe. Do they consider him a fugitive? He is almost one, but it’s not like the B.P.R.D. is necessarily hunting him because he’s a bad guy or dangerous. They might just want to talk to him and find out what’s going on.
In the first Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible arc, the B.P.R.D. does tie in much more but I don’t think that’ll be a running thing for the whole book. At some point the B.P.R.D. has to say, “if Abe isn’t causing any trouble and he wants to be gone, how long can we use our limited resources to get this guy to come back and hang out. If he doesn’t want to be here, I don’t think we can chase him forever.”
Nrama: Jumping onto the third new series coming up, Abe Sapien spent much of 2012 in a coma; but with Abe Sapien: Dark And Terrible coming out in April that looks to be changing. Where’s Abe Sapien at, literally and mentally, coming into 2013?
Scott Allie: Abe splits from the B.P.R.D. in part because of questions of what he has to do with these end of the world shenanigans. Some people see the transformation he's gone through as connected to the changes the world is experiencing, and Abe knows the B.P.R.D. and the government have a some what absolutist approach to solving that sort of problem. He is convinced he doesn't have anything to do with it, and wants to prove that. What's real interesting to me is that he's going to give the reader a much different experience of the end of the Mignola world than the B.P.R.D. can. The B.P.R.D. is a big paramilitary organization, and they experience this sort of disaster from that perspective, which John Arcudi is amazing at delivering. Abe is going to experience it much differently—at once, sort of on the ground from a regular person's point of view, trying to find food and dodge Lovecraft monsters—but also questioning his own role in all of it. So his book will be very different from all the other books we're doing, and it'll give Abe a chance to be front and center for a good long time, in his own series.Nrama: Scott, you mention some Lovecraftian creatures here, but who or what is Abe up against specifically starting out in his new series?
Allie: There will be a little bit of a hitchhiker quality to it. Abe will be traveling and running into different obstacles every two or three issues. He'll face off with zealots, Ogdru Hem, militias ... and the B.P.R.D..
Nrama: So Abe’s out, on his own, for the first time in a long time. What is he looking for, Mike?
Mignola: That’s a better question for Scott, and I don’t want to get into it too much. But like Hellboy, Abe became increasingly aware that he’s not a regular guy. But although Hellboy is perfectly happy not looking for those answers about his origins, Abe is a little more curious about where he fits into what’s going on in the world.
It’s something to be a regular guy fighting monsters, but if you look more like the bad guys than the good guys then you, as Abe, have to kind of question what that means.
Nrama: Scott Allie tells me this series will have a bit of a hitchhiker quality to it, with Abe out on the open road kind of finding adventure as it finds him. Is that true?Mignola: This is very much Scott’s book. While he and I talked about stuff and I had ideas about how the series should start, Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible is going to go where Scott wants it to go; where he wants to tell story. I’ve been saying for awhile that we needed a map to figure out how fucked up the world is in these books, and Scott’s started one to be able to trace Abe’s journey through it.
Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible definitely has a hitchhiker quality to it, especially when compared to B.P.R.D.. They get in these big vehicles and fly from this location to that location. “China? Let’s go to China.” “Scotland? Let’s go to Scotland.”
But Abe is on foot, using regular ground transportation. So in a way it’s really fun to say he’s got to go from here to here, and then figuring out how he’s going to get there. Abe doesn’t have access to big military vehicles any more.
One of the things I said when we first started talking about an Abe solo series is that he quits the B.P.R.D. and hops on a train. In essence, he’s trying to hobo his way across the country. I love the primitiveness of a guy in a boxcar. From there, he gets off the train and goes to this location or that location. Part of the thing here is that he’s a guy on foot, traveling across this world. You see the world differently when you follow a guy making his way across it like this as opposed to a group getting on a helicopter and flying from one place to another.
Nrama: So Abe, despite his appearances and origins, is kind of a “salt of the earth” everyman of sorts?Mignola: I think Abe’s stories will be much smaller and much more personal. But you can’t set aside his origin and appearance – he literally looks like a monster. That adds a kind of Frankenstein thing to the book, of Abe being this misunderstood creature roaming the countryside. I’m pretty excited about it, and boy does the book look beautiful.
Nrama: And I can’t go without asking about the artists on this, Max and Sebastian Fiumara. How’d you manage to get not one but both of them doing rotating arcs on the book?
Mignola: Max had come to us first, I think through Mike's trolling on Facebook. We loved working with him right off the bat, with the O'Donnell one-shot last year. So we roped him into the B.P.R.D. 1948 series. He was having a good enough time working with us that he recommended his brother Sebastian. They'd both been working for Marvel, so we didn't know if they'd want to commit long term to us, but we just loved their work. So we asked them to be the regular artists on Abe, doing rotating storylines, and it looks like they're in it for the long haul ... We're lucky, because with these two, we really have a great contrast in art styles, while having a certain continuity in terms of how they tell a story.
Nrama: Abe Sapien’s had to work somewhat in the shadow of Hellboy, but with this new series it seems to be a real coming out party for him – making 2013 a huge year for Abe. How would you describe Abe in relation to Hellboy and the overarching franchise, and what he’s doing going forward?
Allie: I just assume Abe is everyone's second favorite character. Probably it's Liz for a lot of people, but I think Abe is much loved by Hellboy fans. His big advantage is that A) He's alive, and B) He's on earth—which is slightly better than actually being in Hell. So he's got that over Hellboy. Abe's been an important character for as long as B.P.R.D. has been a title of its own—he was sort of the central character when we started that book, and he's had his ups and downs since. He's changed a lot, and he's about to change some more, and he really needed to get out of the organization, sort of for similar reasons why Hellboy had to leave it, like twelve years ago. Ultimately, Abe is as significant to the major events in the world as Hellboy himself is, but he's going to be a lot more involved in them.Nrama: Dredging your mind back to day one, how did Abe Sapien come about to you in relation to Hellboy? Was he always close to Hellboy, or did he develop along another path?
Mignola: I hate to admit it, but I actually had very little understanding of Abe originally. I didn’t really think too much about who Abe was other than he was found in a jar and the date on the jar corresponded with Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. There was no thought beyond that; it was my way of justify him being named Abe. So I hadn’t given Abe much thought until I came in and wrote an arc of B.P.R.D, myself and we began developing his origins as a Victorian-era guy and it snowballed from there. I never really thought of Abe as a standalone character when I started. I barely had Hellboy figured out in the beginning, but I knew he needed a pal so Abe came in.
It’s great to be able to hand these characters over to other writers and let them really focus on who these guys are. And I come in with broad stroke ideas of how they fit into the world and what their ultimate purpose is, but the day-in, day-out of these characters are John and Scott’s to really flesh out, and I’m very happy to have them.
Nrama: Mike, would you say you’re a proud father, especially given how far Abe and Hellboy have come?
Mignola: It’s weird. I’m a proud father, but I feel like a proud father who ran out on his family –
Mignola: When all the kids were really small. I’m really proud of them, but besides Hellboy they’ve mostly been raised by other people.
Nrama: A wise person once said it takes a village to raise someone, Mike.
Mignola: [laughs] It certainly takes John Arcudi and Scott Allie to raise this family. I’m so happy these days that this little band of characters I created in 1994 have ballooned into this thing that I think works really well. We haven’t had to reboot anything, or said “Oh, shit! We’re tripping over storylines.” The fact that everything has grown organically and we’ve never developed the mindset that “we need more books!” is something I’m very proud of. Everything has grown out of stories we’ve had, or characters we’ve wanted to do more with. We want to grow all of these things, naturally. And now it’s Abe’s time to grow.